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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 August 2007, 08:49 GMT 09:49 UK
Virtual police patrol China web
Internet users in China
Internet users will be reminded not to visit outlawed sites
Chinese authorities are to send two virtual police officers to patrol the internet, in a bid to combat "illicit activities", state media has reported.

The animated figures, a man and a woman, will appear on users' screens every 30 minutes "to remind them of internet security", China Daily said.

They will appear on news portals from Saturday and then on all Beijing sites and forums by the end of the year.

The Chinese government censors all internet and media content.

It blocks content it deems politically or morally threatening, but some users have found ways to circumvent government controls.

'Protect netizens'

The virtual officers will appear either on foot, on motorbikes or riding in a car.

They would "be on watch for websites that incite secession, promote superstition, gambling and fraud", the China Daily said, citing Beijing's Municipal Public Security Bureau.

"It is our duty to wipe out information that does public harm and disrupts social order," the newspaper quoted the bureau's deputy chief of Internet surveillance, Zhao Hongzhi, as saying.

He said the virtual police officers would protect "netizens" from harm.

Users will be able to click on the icons to connect to the bureau's Internet Surveillance Centre, where they can report illegal activities, Mr Zhao said.

China has experienced an internet boom in recent years. It is thought there are more than 120 million web surfers, a figure second only to the US.

The Chinese government has tens of thousands of real security officers monitoring the web and it regularly jails activists who have posted online messages criticising the government.

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